Can Rick De La Croix tell the future? It sure seems that way. Hublot’s savvy distribution partner of the Americas has made all of the right moves when it comes to expanding the luxury watch brand’s ubiquity outside of its Swiss homeland. So when he proclaims that the Miami Design District is the future of Magic City, we’d be crazy to dismiss him.
Miami’s new it-neighborhood has transformed into a beguiling mix of art, luxury and fashion, mashing together haute European fashion labels with trendy street art to create a scene that’s wholly original. Right in the middle of the neighborhood’s tectonic culture shift stands the new Hublot Galerie, a boutique that dares to put a new spin on the traditional watch-buying experience. A brainchild of De La Croix, the new Hublot Galerie has the special distinction of being the only store in the world that solely sells unique and limited edition pieces. While De La Croix owns more traditional boutiques in Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando and across the Americas, the Hublot Galerie is something very different.
“The idea was to create a concept store,” says De La Croix. “It’s not so much a boutique. We’re in the Design District, so we wanted people to come in and enjoy the art in a more relaxed manner and appreciate these very special pieces. This is the only store in the world that is dedicated to unique pieces and limited editions. We have limited editions from around the world.”
And while Miami has a host of other luxury watch boutiques, and even enjoys another Hublot boutique in nearby Bal Harbor owned by De La Croix, he promises that the Hublot Galerie is a singular treat for both Hublot devotees and fans of haute horlogerie in general. “Our focus is to really offer pieces that are not in any other boutique in the world. The Bal Harbor location would be very similar to New York or LA, while this [the Hublot Galerie] is really a one-of-a-kind store in the world. It’s really focused for the Hublot aficionados to come in and see very rare pieces.”
So why do luxury timepieces deserves such a special space? For De La Croix, watches aren’t solely a fashion accessory, but something altogether greater. They’re an essential part of modern manhood. “A watch is a very personal product. Especially as a man, we don’t have jewels. We don’t have bags. We only have shoes, belts and watches, so that’s my passion.”
De La Croix views the purchase of a fine timepiece as something more meaningful than a simple transaction, and he has found that unique and exclusive experiences are his most potent incentives when selling costly pieces to clients.
“What we try to do is offer emotions,” explains De La Croix. “It’s so easy to say ‘we’ll offer you a discount’ as your motivation to buy. What Hublot is trying to do is really give a different experience. “
And that different experience sometimes includes trips to World Cup matches in Brazil, or private tours of Hublot’s factory in Switzerland. One year, Hublot flew a client and devoted Depeche Mode fan to Russia, where the band was playing the last show of a world tour. The client ended up spending two days hanging out with the band and has since bought over 50 Hublot pieces, a majority of them being unique and limited editions.
During 2014’s World Cup in Brazil, Hublot pulled off the biggest marketing investment in company history, inviting over 1000 potential buyers to a five-day event that included access to the tournament’s biggest matches.
“In this type of marketing experience Hublot has no competition.” says De La Croix confidently. He want’s to give his clients not just a one-of-a kind timepiece, but a one- of-a-kind story to go with it. “We flew a guy out two years ago, put him courtside with the Lakers, and after the game, Kobe [Bryant] came out and gave him his jersey and signed it. Afterwards, the guy bought a $350,000 watch from us. He didn’t believe we could do that, but that’s what Hublot is all about. We really want to go out of the box.”
De La Croix wants to imbue his customers with the same emotional connection that he shares with his most prized pieces. He talks about his first watch, a fondly remembered steel Bulova given to him by his grandfather, with a heavy heart. The timepiece has been lost, but the memory lingers. He also mentions a humble Super B piece in gold given to him by Hublot Chairman Jean-Claude Biver. To De La Croix, the feelings imbued in the watch are worth more than the precious metals and stones that comprise it.
“When I started with Hublot ten years ago, the Chairman [Biver] and I had lunch after I signed the distribution contract, and he offered me a gold watch,” remembers De La Croix. “Every time I wear it, it brings back a lot of nostalgia. This is where we started. It’s not that it’s an overly eloquent watch, but it has sentimental value. I think that’s what watches are about. These days, for the time, you look at your phone. You give a watch as a gift, and that’s a meaningful gift.”
De La Croix has found that the Design District, with its chill vibe and vibrant mix of art and commerce, to be the perfect setting for building an emotional connection between his customers and Hublot timepieces. “You have to get people in the vibe to buy, and that’s what I think the Design District has really done,” says De La Croix.
Beyond the Hublot Galerie, another part of De La Croix’s legacy with the company will undoubtedly be his philanthropic work throughout the Miami area and the world at large. He’s quickly become an important fixture of the city’s charity community and his touch will be felt far beyond the bounds of the luxury watch industry. De La Croix serves on the board of the Mourning Family Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by NBA legend Alonzo Mourning that is dedicated to enriching the lives of needy families across South Florida. In collaboration with Haute Living, De La Croix and the Foundation have raised over $250,000.
De La Croix has also worked closely with the Miami Heat Charitable Fund, with which he’s helped raised considerable funds. He has also worked with former Miami Heat Forward Ray Allen’s Ray of Hope foundation, which supports several causes from funding diabetes research, to providing low-income families with a number of important services.
Together with the rock band Depeche Mode, Hublot and De La Croix raised $1.4 Million to benefit Charity Water, whose mission it is to bring clean drinking water to developing nations. After the last bang of the gavel, the auction sold over 500 Hublots.
With musician Roger Daltrey of The Who, De La Croix has supported Teenage Cancer Trust, which has created specialized teenage cancer units in hospitals across the U.K. These special spaces give teens battling cancer and their parents a comfortable space to receive treatment.
Most recently, Hublot, along with De La Croix and Haute Living hosted a charity bunch celebration at Art Basel to benefit Black Jaguar White Tiger, an organization that cares for big felines. Altogether, the event raised $200,00 for the foundation. Hublot is commemorating the partnership with a special edition timepiece due to arrive later this year.
For De La Croix, a man that has found profound success at the peak of Swiss watch industry, giving back is a matter of personal responsibility. “Luxury, at the end of the day, is our living, but we have to be grateful for who we are, and we have to recognize that not everybody is at such an prestigious position to be able to consume the things we can,” says De La Croix. “ “It’s a great satisfaction to take a little bit of the profit that we all enjoy from the world of luxury and give it back to those that will never be able to enjoy it.”
In many ways, De La Croix’s Hublot Galerie represents the antithesis of the typical boutique experience. The goal was to abandon the all too familiar rhythms of buying a timepiece and embrace something new. In line with that philosophy, the Hublot Galerie also fea- tures art instillations from both world-renown artists like Romero Britto and Mr. Brainwash, and local up-and- comers. “We’ve already done three events here with differ- ent artists,” says De La Croix. “We’ve given unknown artists a chance to present their art to our clientele. Like I said, this is a very particular store.” At the end of the day, it’s all about giving the customer as novel of an experience as possible. “People come here in order to relax. It’s an emotional experience, and we foresee in the future really combining art and the watches.”
For even the wealthiest among us, the prospect of buying a luxury watch isn’t an easy one. It’s an investment, and the buyer should be treated to a comfortable, fulfilling and ultimately rewarding experience.
“What’s the excitement of going into a normal retail store with counters?” De La Croix exclaims incredulously. “I want people to come in and feel free to walk around, sit down, have an espresso, have a glass of champagne and let us tell them why they should be wearing a Hublot.”